Top tips for parents and teachers to ensure menstruation is a shame-free experience

Many young girls face challenges during menstruation in South Africa as they do not have access to sanitary products and are forced to resort to rags and cloths, causing embarrassment and shame.  They often, therefore, have no option but to stay home from school during their periods, causing them to miss up to 50 days of schooling per year and hampering quality education.

According to Bhavna Sanker, SPAR’s Brand Promotion and Advertising Manager, skipping school for these young girls is not a choice but a result of not being able to afford sanitary products. In addition, in certain communities, menstruation is a taboo subject and the associated stigma and shame can play a major role in preventing girls from realizing that menstruation is in fact, a normal part of a female’s life.

“We need to do everything possible to ensure our young girls are educated about their changing bodies during puberty and have access to sanitary products so they can enjoy a proper education without embarrassment,” says Bhavna.

Teaching young girls about menstruation is generally handled by parents and teachers.  Bhavna shares her top four tips to help them prepare the young girls under their care for the transition from childhood to young lady:

  • Menstruation is not a sickness

Knowledge is power and menstruation does not have to be a secret. Due to ignorance, many girls are too embarrassed to discuss having a period let alone ask questions about the why’s and how’s.  Teaching them the biological facts about the changes to their body during puberty and the reasons for it, will go a long way to demystifying menstruation and taking away the associated stigma and shame.

  • Periods can be painful
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Whilst some girls are fortunate enough to experience very little discomfort, prepare them nevertheless.  They might experience mild stomach cramps or backache which can be relieved by the use of a hot water bottle, being physically active e.g. taking a walk or if needed, taking mild pain medication.

  • Explain how to use feminine hygiene products

Just as you taught your child how to use a toilet during potty training, it’s important to show girls how to use feminine products so that they are fully prepared should they start their first period away from home. The importance of maintaining good hygiene whilst menstruating in order to remain healthy and free from the risk of infection should also be emphasized.

“Most girls get their first period around 12 but it can be as early as 9 or as late as 16. By having open, honest and positive conversations about what to expect and giving them a plan of action, we are empowering them to dispel the stigma, fears and misconceptions about menstruation,” explains Bhavna.

But educating our young ladies is only the first step. It’s equally important to ensure they have access to sanitary products and to help them stay in school during their periods, SPAR is once again running the Petals Pledge a Pack campaign from 21 June to 31 July.

“Through this campaign, we are encouraging all our shoppers to buy a pack of SPAR Petals Classic Sanitary Pads 8’s for R6 and donate these at our participating stores. These will be distributed to the girls who need them the most, making a big difference in their lives by allowing them to experience shame-free education so they can pursue a better future,” concludes Bhavna.

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